I still find it hard to believe that Anthony Bourdain is gone. On the morning of June 8th—not yet a month ago—I woke up, brewed myself a cup of Joe, looked at my Twitter feed, and saw that he’d used the belt from his bathrobe to hang himself in his hotel room in Kaysersberg, France.
I immediately Googled his name and started reading. I needed to confirm that such a thing had really happened. After looking at the internet for a few minutes, I turned on CNN and a variety of journalists—many of them just hearing about this and now teary-eyed—were talking about Bourdain’s life and his death. Indeed, this horrifying news was true.
Anthony was one of the most decent people I’ve ever known. I wrote “known” without consciously deciding to do so. It is perfectly normal that I wrote it, though. So many of us knew him. He was our brother, our father, our son, our uncle, our best friend, the guy we could see ourselves hanging out with. He was a fellow traveler.
It goes without saying that we are all travelers. We are all on our way. We are all wandering and looking for the right path.
While I was living abroad for nearly two decades—in Poland, the UAE, Turkey, and then Egypt—I only occasionally got to see Tony because I rarely looked at television in those faraway places. But when I came home for vacation during the summertime, I watched, as regularly as the beat of a human heart, No Reservations and then Parts Unknown. In Anthony, I saw myself. He was the famous me. Both of us traveled and explored. His adventures made it to TV while mine didn’t. This meant he spoke for me. I turned on the TV to watch him tell my stories. Thank you, Tony, for telling them even better than I could have.
Tony was an unapologetic internationalist and we will miss him for that too, especially now that so many Americans seem to be proudly proclaiming themselves “America First!” ultra-nationalists. (Every time I hear America first, I can’t help but think “Deutscheland uber alles!”)
By the way, blessed be the internationalists because they promote a message of peace and mutual respect.
If you ever watched Tony on television, you know he had a really good time when he was out and about, but he also carried an enormous responsibility. He explained other countries and the peoples who live in them to a nation of individuals many of whom don’t own passports. This made him a teacher who didn’t lecture or draw up lesson plans. In other words, he taught without teaching and he preached without preaching. And we all sat raptly listening and learning and were converted.
So, Tony, I end this by simply saying goodbye. I will miss you, and this nation and the world will miss you too, especially now.